The Stanley Cup playoffs are a time when legends are made.
One of the most exciting parts of the NHL postseason is watching unexpected players put their teams on their backs and climb to new heights.
Breakout stars can be young players on the rise or they can be journeymen who suddenly exceed our expectations. Sometimes we see hints of this potential during the regular season; other times, these performances come right out of the blue.
Here's a look at the top breakout stars of the 2014 playoffs so far. With one exception, the list includes only players whose teams are still alive in the postseason. Rankings are based on the player's overall contribution to his team, with a heavy emphasis on key moments like game- and series-winning goals.
In cases where teams have had more than one surprise player making an impact, I've thrown out a few honorable mentions along the way.
If you're noticing another difference-maker or think a player is about to step up his game, share your thoughts and ideas in the comments.
All stats courtesy of NHL.com, current through the end of games Saturday, May 3.